I wish I could have presented this in a more professional interview style format. Unfortunately I am an idiot who is still new at this and didn't think of how I could record the conversation as it was ongoing until the very last second. At that point I really didn't have an option other than taking notes and then making sure I wrote this immediately afterwards while it's still fresh in my mind. This is the first thing approaching an interview I've gotten to do, and next time I'll be much more prepared. It was a fun conversation to have.
On Auburn so far this season: Rece told me he was impressed with Auburn's first two weeks, particularly with the way Auburn handled Arkansas. Arkansas obviously spent a lot of time planning for that particular game and planned to come in and establish themselves as a physical force and Auburn responded as you expect good teams to respond: they adjusted and handled Arkansas with little difficulty after the first half.
On the College Football Playoff:
The first part of this conversation was fun. I asked Rece about perception of the college football playoff, particularly after the Pat Haden incident. Rece told me that he knows Pat Haden, knows him to be a man of great character and integrity, and thinks it was a single incident of a very smart man doing something that wasn't very smart. He pointed to Pat Haden's stated plan to dedicate Sundays to watching game film of all of the teams involved in order to make the most educated decisions, and how Pat Haden will have to recuse himself from any discussion involving USC in particular. It was quite obvious from the passion in his voice that Rece whole-heartedly believes in Pat Haden's integrity.
For what it's worth, I agree with him on Haden as a person. I don't think this will ultimately affect Pat Haden's personal decisions, but I do have to say that perception is often reality, and in this world of instant TAKES, our opinions are swayed heavily in the first moments we learn of an event and we jump to conclusions and cling to them. My first reaction on Twitter when I learned of it was to retweet my amazement that Haden would do such a thing. The reason I brought it up in conversation is because I do not really believe sitting athletic directors should be involved, and this event is going to do nothing but promote the ultra-negative TAKES side of that argument. It's particularly important that the College Football Playoff get things as right as possible in the first year with as little controversy as possible.
It's unfortunate that this incident will color people's perception of Haden's objectivity and the Committee's objectivity as a whole so soon, especially if those fears and that perception are unfounded. We also spoke of the committee make-up and Rece discussed the effort made to get a wide variety of opinions and backgrounds in order to bring together a group to make the best decision possible to reduce the controversy and get it right during this first season. However, controversy in some form (because complaining is what we, as college football fans, do best) was guaranteed the moment they placed sitting athletic directors on the committee, in my opinion. One of those sitting athletic directors involved with an incident on the second week of the season is only going to push the "sitting AD" argument even more.
What I didn't get the chance to discuss with him due to the time constraints of the call were his thoughts about if a committee was the way to go in deciding the playoff participants in the first place. When choosing four teams, a committee may work if you don't want to put restrictions such as "only conference champions" or "no two teams from one conference," but when it expands (when, not if), then a more objective system based on similar models to the BCS may be in order. I doubt that will happen, though. Even the FCS uses a selection committee for its playoffs. It took decades for college football to let go of the old poll system for the BCS 1vs2 match-ups (with a few years of the Bowl Alliance), and close to another two decades to get to a four team playoff. Now that there is a committee selecting teams, it's doubtful we ever get away from that. The reality is that there will always be controversy surrounding post-season choices, whether there are four teams, eight teams, sixteen teams, or twenty-four teams as in the current FCS model.
For the second part of the conversation on the College Football Playoff, we spoke of how the timing is right for the FBS (can we now go back to calling it 1A, please?) to have a playoff. He believes the fans will be thrilled to see the big-time match-ups in the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl. I spoke to him of my love of playoffs due to following FCS football all of my life, and we got into the discussion on the sanctity of the regular season in college football, how it's one of the best regular seasons in all of sports, and how the impact of the ending to this past season's Iron Bowl would have been lessened had the two teams met again in a playoff.
I would love to have followed that discussion up with one about whether going the route of using established bowls as the playoff sites is the right move. It will be interesting to see what the attendance numbers will be for these playoff bowls in the coming years. I imagine they will be high this season, and maybe in the next few seasons, but I suspect it will taper off as people decide to save their money in case their team makes the championship game. I am a proponent of on-campus playoff games. The way this is done in FCS is that - even though it is on-campus - ticket sales are regulated and split by the NCAA, season-ticket holdings don't always matter, only NCAA playoff merchandise can be sold at souvenir stands, etc. They attempt to make it as neutral as possible while still being on-campus where one team will have a decided home-field advantage. I think that when the playoffs expand beyond four teams we may see a push to have those first rounds in on-campus stadiums.
On Aubie and Mascot Traditions: I asked Rece about the Capital One Mascot competition and about mascots in general. Rece discussed how so much changes with schools so quickly in terms of players, coaches, etc, and that the symbols of the schools are so important to the fans because they are the constants that remain with us and that we remember. I, of course, had to bring up how it's a shame that the 8x Universal Cheerleading Association Champion mascot Aubie has never won the Capital One Mascot Challenge. He came close a few years ago, but was beat out in the final stages. If I remember correctly, that was a year where there may have been some who figured out how to set up auto-voting bots, or at least that was the rumor. Either way, Aubie came very close and almost pulled it out. This year there are a number of ways to vote, such as simply clicking "Vote Now" on the match-ups website for a single point, using Twitter or Facebook with hashtag #CapitalOneAubie for 50 points, or completing the weekly challenge and uploading a video to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag for 100 points. This week's challenge is creating a sign supporting Aubie for a football game. The winner of the challenge gets $20,000 towards the school's mascot program. Aubie is undefeated in the first two weeks, and currently holds a 98% to 2% lead over Brutus the Buckeye in this weeks vote "contributing to the Big Ten's weekend of misery" as Rece put it.
All-in-all it was a fun talk. I was definitely not as prepared for it as I should have been, through my own faults. I had the topics Rece would be prepared to discuss beforehand, and should have thought to have some ability set up to record the conversation. It was an interesting way to throw myself into the fire of speaking with a media personality to speak with one of ESPN's top college football personalities.
So what are the thoughts of you, Oh Noble Readers of College and Magnolia, on the College Football Playoff? How is it that Aubie - the greatest mascot on the planet - has never won the Capital One Mascot Challenge? Sound off, below.